Terry J. Lundgren didn’t gloss over the reality facing most retailers, choosing to focus on innovation in his keynote address this morning at the Global Retailing Conference.
“If you’re in the fashion/retail business, more than likely it’s been a challenging period for us and for you and that’s OK. We’re used to coming up against these challenges and addressing them,” the Macy’s Inc. chief executive officer and chairman said. “What I’ve found in these places where you have headwinds in your face, the only way to move forward, to get past them, is you have to do things differently than you did in the past.”
The talk was the kickoff keynote for the University of Arizona’s Terry J. Lundgren Center for Retailing’s annual conference, with a speaker roster over the next two days that also includes Nike Inc. president of direct-to-consumer Christiana Shi, Lucky Brand ceo Carlos Alberini and Blanco ceo Stephen Craig.
Left off the talking points for Lundgren’s speech though are the pressures facing the retailer from activist investors that have been pushing the company to re-evaluate its real estate holdings and reverse a sales slump. Instead, Lundgren, for his part, focused his talk on three Macy’s programs he said speaks to its innovation: Idea Lab, the outlet Backstage concepts and the Bluemercury beauty stores.
Idea Lab, for which the company completed the group’s San Francisco headquarters last year, is focused on technology innovations. That includes a program being piloted with thredUp that encourages consumers to bring recyclable clothes into Macy’s stores in exchange for Macy’s money, or rewards-based programs centered around gamification.
“There’s clearly an interest in consumers — I think all consumers but particularly young consumers — who want to make a game of the buying process,” Lundgren said. “So there’s a number of things that we’re doing on this subject. There’s been 30 tactics executed thus far.”
The retailer has generated more than $100 million of business through gamification, Lundgren added.
Idea Lab has processed and assessed 31 ideas, with nine in production and three of those expected to go live this year, Lundgren reported.
The company’s foray into the off-price segment, which began last year with its Macy’s Backstage concept, is something “we’re happy” with Lundgren said adding it’s helped the retailer access the Millennial consumer and also see stronger sales in categories Macy’s has not traditionally been strong in, such as home decor and packaged foods. The company’s now testing the shop-in-shop concept with Backstage, having placed the concept in two Macy’s stores.
“We’ve only been in business in two stores for 10 days, but we are really thrilled with our results so far and it’s clearly incremental business,” Lundgren said. “It’s making the total store more productive. There is likely to be some cannibalization…but net-net if the total store grows, it’s a winner.”
Meanwhile, the company will continue growing beauty specialty retailer Bluemercury, via free-standing store openings that will grow the chain to 115 doors by the end of 2017. The beauty concept has also been brought to four Macy’s stores with another 18 expected to be rolled out. “It’s just a matter of time, space and planning,” Lundgren said of the shop-in-shop concept.